No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Understanding Body Language reviewed


Title: Understanding Body Language
Authors: Geoff Ribbens & Richard Thompson
Publisher: Institute of Management/Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 0-340-78176-9
Date: 25/8/2000
Price: £6.99
Format: Paperback, 95 pp

This brief, but entertaining paperback forms part of the Institute of Management's Successful business in a week series. These cover topics as diverse as assertiveness, time management, career planning, project management and mind mapping (visit for more information).

The books offer exactly what they say...a day-by-day learning programme running from Sunday to Saturday. With shades of 'if it's Tuesday, it must be performing arts',this title starts with Sunday's 'Introduction to Body Language' and then each day covers a fresh topic, as described below. The day-by-day theme even extends to the chapter headings, which use the day of the week rather than the topic itself, (one assumes that the authors won't be too upset if you start on another day!).

Nevertheless, once the seven-day course gimmick is out of the way the book does offer lots of interest. Written in a chatty and easy to follow style, the authors make good use of mini case studies, examples and line illustrations to explain the importance, and hidden meaning, of body language. This includes the pretty well known aspects of maintaining eye-contact, adopting appropriate postures and using welcoming gestures. It also includes some less well known ideas, such as how the position of the eyes can indicate what you are thinking about. Here Ribbens and Thompson come clean and acknowledge that the system is 'not yet foolproof' and that you have to know whether the individual is left or right handed (how about ambidextrous?).

Monday's chapter is perhaps going to be of most interest to readers new to the topic. Titled 'Actions Speak Louder Than Words', it deals with the basic language of posture and gesture. Line drawings illustrate postures for depression, confidence, indifference, excitement and so on, as well as providing brief examples of how 'mirroring' another's posture helps create a bond and shows empathy. It then moves on to consider gestures such as the handshake (nothing on air-kissing), fist and finger insults (really), shrugs, physical contact and the dangers of rubbing, tapping or scratching just about any part of your anatomy.

The authors also make the useful point that body language isn't always universal. Indeed, they give as a very graphical illustration the case of the 'OK' hand gesture... who would have thought that inserting Microsoft's  Winding symbol would allow you to say something very rude in Brazilian? (it also means money in Japan and zero in France).

And so on through the week. Tuesday covers 'The Body Language of Power and Influence', next 'Performance Art' considers presentations, then 'Selling Yourself' focuses on personal presentation and client handling.

On Friday we get 'The Truth Detectives'...some interesting insights into interpreting other people's body language. The chapter offers hints to help spot stress (an indicator of deception) together with the tell-tale signs of fear, tension and imminent aggression. A particularly useful section deals with how to respond to suspecting liars by using non-verbal signals.

By Saturday ('Listening Skills') you will be afraid to fold your arms (indifference), glance to the left (talking to ourselves), stand too close (aggressive), have a back-ache (can't cope) or scratch your nose (lying). But, just before you get too paranoid, Sunday should around again and you can put the book down and perhaps move on to the next title in the series... if you found this one of interest, the one on Neuro-Linguistic Programming might do nicely.

Understanding Body Language was reviewed by Neil Wellman of NetWork Associates.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!